Introducing SLA of
phonology research: a
historical perspective
SLA and contrastive linguistics
THE PAST: FOUNDATIONS
 The 20th century
contrastive studies,
known under the name
of Contrastive Analysis,
originated out of the
need to improve the
methods of language
teaching and learning.
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Contrastive Analysis Hypothesis
strong version (Lado 1957): possibility to
predict all errors as a result of transfer from
L1(NL) to L2(TL):
 similar elements were assumed to be easy
 different elements - to be difficult
weak version (Wardhaugh 1970): comparison
of L1 and L2 not enough to predict all errors;
they can be explained after the fact
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moderate views
 Gradually, more moderate views replaced the
strong language acquisition hypothesis.
 Transfer lost its all-solving status and came to
coexist with the dominant notion
interlanguage (Selinker 1969, 1972),
independent of NL and TL.
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Interlanguage Hypothesis
extreme
 Creative Construction
Hypothesis (Dulay and
Burt 1974)
 the monitor model by
Krashen (e.g. 1981): a
distinction between
acquisition and learning
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moderate
 Markedness Differential
Hypothesis (Eckman
1977, 1981): difficult
areas are those that are
different from L1 and
relatively more marked
than L1
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transfer acc. to Gass (1988:387)
The notion of language transfer involves the use of
native language (or other language) information in
the acquisition of a second (or additional) language.
A broader definition of this sort allows for observed
phenomena such as:
1. delayed rule restructuring
2. transfer of typological organization
3. different paths of acquisition
4. avoidance
5. overproduction of certain elements
6. additional attention paid to the target language
resulting in more rapid learning
7. differential effects of socially prestigious forms.
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Weinreich (1953) Languages in Contact
 interference: “those instances of deviation
from the norms of either language which
occur in the speech of bilinguals as a result of
their familiarity with more than one language”
 bilingualism: “the practice of alternately
using two languages”
 later: only native-like use of both languages
(e.g. Bloomfield) vs. any use of an L2 (e.g.
Haugen)
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Lado (1957) Linguistics Across Cultures
 CA - Contrastive Analysis
 transfer: “individuals tend to transfer the
forms and the meanings, and the distribution
of the forms and meanings of their native
language and culture to the foreign language
and culture”
 differences between the two languages more
important - they cause 'negative transfer‘;
similarities - 'positive transfer'
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behaviourist view of language learning
 Bloomfield (1933), Skinner (1957)
 grammatical structure as ”system of habits”
(Lado 1957)
 habits acquired through exposure and
practice
 stimulus-response
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mentalist view of language learning
(Chomsky et al.)
 Chomsky (1959) – review of Skinner’s (1957)
Verbal Behaviour
 the independent grammars assumption children have a system of their own, they are
not defective speakers
 LAD Language Acquisition Device – children
construct linguistic competence by ‘evaluation
measure’ (‘hypothesis-testing’ in acquisition
research)
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independent grammars in L2
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approximative system (Nemser 1971)
interlanguage (Selinker 1972)
phonology of interlanguage (Tarone 1978)
the methodology of Error Analysis (Corder 1971):
error (of competence) vs. mistake (of performance)
paradox in Selinker & Corder: the object of
description is learner’s knowledge of language
(competence) whereas the research method is the
analysis of his/her performance
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important:
 multi-competence should be
treated as a norm: it’s normal for
the majority of people to use
another language
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SLA of speech
 Abramson & Lisker 1970: cross-lg differences in the
discrimination ability of VOT (responsible for voicing
& aspiration contrasts in initial stops), which agreed
with Motor Theory (Liberman et al 1967): perception
accomplished via production
 the categorical perception (CP) paradigm (tests of
discrimination & identification of consonants to
discover those lg-specific patterns)
 so, the opinion in the 1970s: discrimination of voicing
& place contrasts in Cs in L2 determined by the
phonemic significance of the stimuli in L1
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SLA of speech cont.
 BUT 2 to 6-month-old infants COULD discriminate
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such contrasts independent of their exposure to the
language in which they occurred
THUS loss in discrimination ability (age; progress in
L1)
adults Japanese learners of English could produce /r/
& /l/, but not perceive the contrast: production
preceded & exceeded perception in L2 learning
training to improve perception was unsuccessful support for the strong Critical Period Hypothesis
(Lenneberg 1967): from 2 years to puberty
the above conclusions were premature → detailed
studies demonstrated that…
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perceptual difficulty in L2 is relative
 as to voicing, place, context, experience with L2, but
also different acoustic cues used by L2 learners than
by natives for the same contrasts (e.g. for /r-l/
contrast native speakers use F3, while Japanese
learners use temporal differences and F2)
 native lg patterns of phonetic perception are formed
in the first year of life (works by Werker et al., Polka)
 no consistent answer as to children b-n 2 & 13:
whether they have any advantage over adolescents
& adults in the perception of non-native contrasts
(Flege et al. vs. Werker & others)
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perception vs. production
 perception causal for production: e.g.
Portuguese speakers assimilated Fr. /y/ to
their /i/ category while English speakers - to
their /u/ category
 however, prod & perc may proceed
independently (in Japanese learners of
English perc lagged behind prod)
 "earlier is better" to learn production; no
convincing evidence for perc (comment:
adults have heard incomparably more signals
than children)
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perceptual training of L2 contrasts
 in the 1980-90s it was demonstrated that
short-term intensive training improves perc;
voicing easier than place; but longer training
even more
 importance of context, e.g. vd/vless <th>
contrast trained in CV context improved Fr.
speakers' perc of natural CV stimuli, but there
was NO TRANSFER to VCV or VC contexts:
"subjects learn to differentiate positionspecific allophones of phonetic categories,
rather than context-free phoneme categories"
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THE PRESENT
 both children & adults have some perc
difficulties; they are not due to a loss of
sensory capabilities, but reflect perceptual
attunement
 sensitive period > critical period
 since non-native contrasts are not equally
difficult, contrastive analysis of phoneme
inventories cannot accurately predict
perceptual problems of L2 learners
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THE PRESENT cont.
 selective perceptual patterns are modified in
adults (& children) through immersion or
conversational instruction; some perc
difficulties may persist even after production
mastered, so perc & prod may be
uncorrelated in more experienced learners
 short-term training emphasizing equivalence
classification transfers to novel talkers and
stimuli, but whether it generalizes to all
phonotactic contexts - has not been
demonstrated
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Extended References
 Cook, V. 1993. Linguistics and Second Language Acquisition. London:
Macmillan.
 Dziubalska-Kołaczyk, Katarzyna. 2002. Conscious competence of
performance as a key to teaching English. In Waniek-Klimczak, E. and
Melia, P.J. (eds.) Accents and Speech in English. Frankfurt: Peter
Lang. 97-106.
 Dziubalska-Kołaczyk, Katarzyna. 2003. How learners ‘repair’ second
language phonology and whether they may become native speakers. In
Waniek-Klimczak, Ewa and Włodzimierz Sobkowiak (eds.). Dydaktyka
fonetyki języka obcego. Neofilologia, tom V. Płock: Zeszyty Naukowe
PWSZ w Płocku.
 Dziubalska-Kołaczyk, Katarzyna. 2003. Speech is in the ear of the
listener: Some remarks on the acquisition of second language sounds.
In Hales, Kimberli and Angela Terveen (main editors), Aurélie Capron,
Marion Correnoz and Théo Garneau, under the direction of MarieChristine Garneau (eds.). Selected Papers from the Sixth College-wide
Conference for Students in Languages, Linguistics and Literature 2002.
Honolulu: College of Languages, Linguistics, and Literature. University
of Hawai`i at Mānoa. 81-92.
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Extended References cont.
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Eckman, Fred R. 1977. Markedness and the contrstive analysis hypothesis.
Language Learning 27. 315-330.
Eckman, Fred R. 1981. On predicting phonological difficulty in second language
acquisition. SSLA 4. 18-30.
Eckman, Fred R. 1991. The structural conformity hypothesis and the acquisition
of consonant clusters in the interlanguage of ESL learners. . SSLA 13. 23-41.
Eckman, Fred R. and Gregory K. Iverson. 1993. Sonority and markedness
among onset clusters in the interlanguage of ESL learners. Second Language
Research 9,3. 234-252.
Fisiak, J. (1993) Contrastive linguistics and foreign/second language acquisition.
In Seeber, H.U. and W. Göbel (eds.) Anglistentag 1992 Stuttgart. Proceedings.
vol.XIV. Max Niemeyer Verlag. 315-326.
Flege, James Emil. 1995. Second language speech learning: Theory, findings,
and problems. In Strange, W. (ed.). Speech Perception and Linguistic
Experience: Theoretical and Methodological Issues. Timonium, MD: York Press.
Flege, James Emil. 1999. The relation between L2 production and perception.
ICPhS99, San Francisco. 1273- 1276.
Jassem, Wiktor. 2003. Polish. JIPA 33, 1. 103-108.
Leather, J. and A.R. James. 1991. The acquisition of second language speech.
SSLA 13. 305-341.
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Extended References cont.
 Major, Roy C. 2001. Foreign Accent: The Ontogeny and Philogeny of
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Second Language Acquisition. Mahwah, New Jersey: Lawrence
Erlbaum.
Proceedings of the 14th 1999 and 15th 2003 ICPhS (on CDRoms).
Shockey, Linda. 2002. Sound Patterns of Spoken English. Oxford:
Blackwell.
Sobkowiak, W. 1996. English Phonetics for Poles. Poznań: Bene Nati.
Strange, Winifred. 1996. Phonetics of Second-Language Acquisition:
Past, Present, Future. 13th ICPhS, 4: 76-83.
Strange, Winifred. 1999. Levels of abstraction in characterizing crosslanguage phonetic similarity. ICPhS99, San Francisco. 2513-2519.
Tarone, Elaine E. 1978. The phonology of interlanguage. In Richards, J.
(ed.). Understanding second and foreigh language learning. Rowley,
MA: Newbury House. 15-33.
Wardhaugh, Ronald. 1970. The contrastive analysis hypothesis.
TESOL Quaterly 4. 123-130.
Weinreich, Uriel. 1953. Languages in contact. The Hague: Mouton.
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Introducing SLA of phonology research: a historical